Parent’s Guide to Drug Paraphernalia
No parent wants to learn that their teenager is using drugs, but it’s an unfortunate reality for many. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 50% of high school students report having used marijuana, while 20% of high school students report having used prescription medication without a prescription.1
If you suspect your teenager is using drugs, it’s important to get them the help they need. It can be difficult to identify drug use as it can be easy to miss the various behavioral, emotional, and physical signs. Identifying drug paraphernalia is one way you can recognize drug use. This article details what drug paraphernalia is, how to spot drug paraphernalia, and how to get help for your teenager if they are struggling with drug use.
What Is Drug Paraphernalia?
The term drug paraphernalia refers to equipment, items, and objects that are used to conceal, consume, or produce illicit drugs.2
Drug paraphernalia can be homemade or purchased in various ways, which is one reason why it can be difficult to identify. While some types of drug paraphernalia look obvious (e.g., a pipe or syringe), other drug paraphernalia is disguised as everyday objects, such as markers and tubes of lipstick.
The appearance of drug paraphernalia depends on the specific drug it’s intended for. For example, a bong or pipe may be used smoke marijuana, while a needle and spoon may be used to inject heroin.
Common examples of drug paraphernalia include but are not limited to:2, 3
- E-cigarettes or vapes.
- Pipes (e.g., acrylic, ceramic, glass, metal, plastic, stone, water, wooden).
- Miniature spoons.
- Roach clips.
- Rolling papers.
Drug paraphernalia is illegal. U. S. Code Title 21 Section 863 states it is “unlawful for any person to sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia; to use the mails or any other facility of interstate commerce to transport drug paraphernalia; or to import or export drug paraphernalia.”4
Unfortunately, teenagers are often attracted to drug paraphernalia due to its branding. Drug paraphernalia is increasingly being manufactured with bright, trendy colors and designs that make the products more attractive to teenagers and young adults.3
How to Identify Common Drug Paraphernalia
If you suspect your teenager may be using drugs, there are several ways you can spot drug paraphernalia.
- Aluminum foil: Aluminum foil can be used to smoke several types of drugs, like cocaine and heroin. However, it is especially common for smoking pills, specifically prescription painkillers. When smoked, the drug enters the bloodstream faster than when swallowed, increasing the appeal.
- Bandanas, belts, bottle caps, spoons, syringes: These items are often indicative of intravenous drug (IV) use. Many drugs can be taken via IV injection, but opiates are the most common.
- Baggies, cellophane: If you frequently find small plastic bags in your teen’s backpack, pockets, or purse, they may have once contained drugs. Small plastic baggies or burnt cigarette wrappers are used to hold cocaine, crack, ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, or pills. If you notice a powder residue inside, this may be indicative of cocaine or heroin
- Copper scrubbers, glass tubes, “love roses”: “Love roses” are glass tubes that contain a paper or plastic rose inside. Often sold at glass stations, these glass tubes are commonly used to smoke crack cocaine.
- Bowls, pipes: Bowls and pipes come in various materials, shapes, and sizes depending on the substance being smoked. Crack is commonly smoked using a glass cylinder pipe. Marijuana is commonly smoked out of a colorful bowl with an elongated mouthpiece. Methamphetamine is commonly smoked out of a pipe that looks like a combination of the two.
- Aerosol containers, “fake-looking” soda cans.: These containers are sold at head shops worldwide and are used for hiding drugs. Most of them are airtight, so they also conceal drug smells.
- Pens, straws, rolled-up dollar bills: Pens can be dismantled, and straws can be cut smaller for snorting certain drugs. Drugs that can be crushed up and snorted include cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, meth, and most pills.
Other Objects Related to Drug Use
Keep in mind that the list above is not all of the drug paraphernalia examples that exist. You may find that your teenager also has drug accessories in their car or room. Some other objects that aren’t considered drug paraphernalia may still indicate that your teenager is using drugs, such as:
- Eye drops.
- Sunglasses (e.g., wearing indoors).
- Razor blades.
- Surgical masks.
- Glow sticks.
- Empty bottles or cans that have a strong odor.
What to Do if You Find Drug Paraphernalia
If you find what you think may be drug paraphernalia, consider other behavioral, emotional, and physical signs of drug use your teen may be showing. Have you noticed that they are hanging out with a different group of friends? Are they forgoing hobbies they used to love? Are they often tired?
You may feel a lot of emotions if you find that your teenager has drug paraphernalia. While you may feel angry, it’s important to remain calm and think about how you will best approach them. Confronting them, using hurtful words, or punishing them without having a thoughtful conversation can hinder your relationship.
If your teenager is using drugs, having a talk with them is important. When you can have a 1-on-1 conversation, consider sitting them down and bringing up the topic in a calm way. It’s a good idea to find how what kind of drugs they use, when they started using them, and how often so you can plan the next steps. It’s important to also ask them why they are using drugs. Your teenager may be dealing with anxiety, stress, trauma, or another life circumstance that they need help with.
After your discussion, it’s important to plan the next steps together. If the situation is out of your control, it may be time to consider professional help.
Getting Your Child Help
If your teenager is struggling with drugs, you should know that professional help is available. Addiction treatment in inpatient or outpatient rehab can help your teenager stop using drugs, stay drug-free, and return to healthy functioning at home, school, and in the community.5
You may find that your teenager is unwilling to enter rehab. While this is undoubtedly a trying time, many states allow parents to enroll their children in rehab so long as they are under 18 years old.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. Effective treatment is individualized and addresses all of a patient’s needs, not just their drug use. Many types of treatment have been successful in the treatment of drug addiction, such as:5
- Behavioral counseling.
- Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
- Long-term follow-up care.
Not all rehabs treat teenagers, however, there are specialty teen drug rehabs available that focus on treating this age group. Some teenagers may prefer a facility near home while others may find a “change of scenery” more beneficial. This is a personal choice and can be something you discuss as a family. If you are beginning your search for a facility, our rehab directory can help you find treatment providers throughout the U.S.
If you need help, you can contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) 24 hours a day at for information, resources, and support.